I truly believe that a lot of what plagues our country in terms of our health and well-being falls on our reliance on the mega-mart grocery store and fast food to fulfill our needs. If you go back as little as one generation ago; the microwave was a new invention and highly processed foods were just starting to become commonplace. We used to have milk delivered straight from the farm and fruits and vegetables were only available when the local farmer could grow them. Now if you are willing to pay enough you can get any fruit or veggie at any point in the year and every meal can be prepared in five or fewer minutes in the microwave from frozen if you choose. While I don't see this as all bad (People are eating more than just potatoes in the winter) it has slowly changed how people view their produce and what they eat. These are a few of the steps that I take to get better food and live a healthier life while shopping.
1) GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE WHO WORK IN YOUR SUPERMARKET
That means you need to talk to them about more than just where is something and can I get two pounds of ground chuck. Even if you think they are just a high school senior working for minimum wage they will know more information about what is there than you. If nothing else at least find out what produce just showed up today instead of what has been on the shelf or in the back for a week. That is a great place to start, what is fresh! After that start asking where the produce is coming from. If the stocker can't answer the question someone will be able to at the store and the better you know the workers, the better produce you will get. What you are looking for is local produce that hasn't been picked early and artificially ripened. While getting local may not be possible for everything, the more that you can get the better because your food will taste better and your food will have more nutrients that you can use.
2) LEARN IF THEY HAVE A BUTCHER AND FISH MONGER ON SITE AND GET TO KNOW THEM WELL
When it comes to the butcher and fish monger (If they have one), it is imperative to know them and ask as many questions as possible. I promise you won’t upset them by asking how long something has been out or where they get their products from. They probably will be happy to tell you because it’s a change from what the ordinary customer does. Again the local rule is important but I think even more important is knowing the freshness of the meats and when it comes to fish knowing whether they are farmed or wild caught. When you get to know your butcher and fish monger they will be able to answer any questions about the differences in the meat and fish and even suggest what goes best with what. If you talk to any of the top chefs, the first person they get to know is the local butcher and fish monger to be sure that they get the best cuts and best fish available. One perk that I have found to knowing the butcher is that when you come regularly they may end up setting aside the best pieces for you, and when they do this I say thank you and cook it right away just the way they suggest.
3) COME WITH A LIST AND STICK TO IT (MOSTLY)
I know that we have all heard this one over and over again but it really is that important and we all stray so far away from our list so often or just go for two things and leave with half a cart full. And I know when I look back at my cart afterwards it usually isn't filled with the healthiest items; their marketing gets me every time. So when you come with a list and stick to it, you get healthier and fresher options because you planned for that and you tend to leave with less processed foods. My simple rule of thumb when it comes to the list is that we can get one thing per person not on the list which limits impulse buys but also allows us to reach out and try new things. The only way that we add more items not on the list is when we realize we need more peanut butter or flour but forgot to add it to the list, that is a totally different situation but don't abuse this rule by adding that sugary cereal to your essentials list or the Hershey’s bar by the checkout.
4) USE THE SMALLEST CART THEY OFFER
It is in our human nature to fill our cart or basket with groceries. That’s why they offer such large carts at the mega-mart grocery stores. My favorite thing that has been happening recently is grocery stores offering a smaller cart other than just carrying a basket. This completely changes how you shop just like having a smaller plate changes how much you eat. By starting with a smaller cart along with having a list you can significantly change your grocery shopping style.
Check back for the next blog continuing this topic on grocery shopping for a healthier life!